I’m guessing you’ve never heard of a ‘romanx’? That’s not surprising, as it’s a very rare romantic encounter between a Romanian and a Manx person. It’s also a made up word. Take Ro from Romanian and prefix it to Manx et voila! There you have it. A romanx.
I am of course referring to myself and my Romanian partner, neither of who lives in the IOM where our families are based: he in the Netherlands and myself in Leeds. This makes going back for Christmas a complex affair, having to haul a suitcase full of presents, unobtainable food items and a versatile and restricted wardrobe from 2 different countries, in addition to dedicating time visiting family and friends without leaving anyone out.
One of the things I still find challenging during the festive period is finding the happy medium in a multi-cultural relationship, even after 6 years of being in one! But I do try my best, and one of the ways to a Romanian man’s heart is through his belly, so here’s my attempt at doing just that…
No, these are not cooked slugs. They are in fact called sarmale and they are one of my favourite things to eat during Romanian festive periods. The pork mince mixture is rolled up in sauerkraut then placed in a large pot with a tomato based sauce and put in the oven for a few hours. It can be served with fresh bread or polenta, but never forget the crème fraiche!
I never understood why Romanian women grumble about making sarmale, as I find it therapeutic and methodical, however I imagine that it can become labour-intensive and time consuming when preparing all the other intricate dishes traditionally eaten at Christmas and New Year!
Om nom nom! Who says Romanian food is not for vegetarians?! My mum that’s who! I beg to differ, as many Romanians follow the religious days throughout the Romanian Orthodox calendar, and that includes meat-free days or even weeks. So the Romanians have developed many delicious salads and spreads that can be devoured with fresh bread. Here are 3 of my favourites: salată de boeuf, salată de ciuperci and salată de vinete.
Salată de bœuf is my ultimate favourite. I could live off this! It is commonly eaten throughout Europe with various twists and is also known as a Russian salad. The Romanian version consists of potato, carrots, peas, gherkins and homemade mayonnaise. You can also add shredded chicken or tuna for a meaty version.
Salată de ciuperci is my partner’s favourite, rather surprisingly as he doesn’t like mushrooms! This is made up of mushrooms, garlic and homemade mayonnaise. So moreish!
Salată de vinete is made from aubergines and of course homemade mayonnaise!
Now. This is where I’m contradictory to my positive experiences. Piftie is a marmite of a dish that is traditionally eaten at New Year. Many young Brits’ stomachs would turn at this, as offal is something that’s just not eaten nowadays in Britain. Unless it’s minced up in cheap sausages that is.
So traditionally Romanian families would have a pig throughout the year and around Christmas time they would kill it and resourcefully use all of the animal. I have found Romanians to be a resourceful kind in the home! So with the offal they would boil it up with lots of salt and garlic, take out the bones and pour the mixture into a dish so that it sets. They would then eat it with bread and mustard. This has become a traditional treat for many Romanians, however I personally find it a bit of a Bush Tucker Trial affair every year. How many times do they say you need to try something before you know if you like it or not?! Maybe I’ll stop this year and write this one off…
Ciorbă is a soup commonly eaten in the winter months to both warm and fill you up! You could say the closest equivalent in Britain would be a broth. What makes ciorbă ciorbă and not a broth is the addition of borş (fermented wheat bran), which makes it sour. A good hangover remedy according to the knowledgeable soacra-mea (mother-in-law).
You can make all sorts of Ciorbă, my favourites being ciorbă de pui (chicken soup), ciorbă de perişoare (meatball soup) and ciorbă de fasole (bean soup, but not sour).
So there you have it. What I love about Romanian food is the different combination of flavours that it has. My taste buds are open to new flavours and concepts, which is something that many Brits don’t have these days. It is both a shame and shameful, as Romanians welcome people through hearty homemade food that they lovingly prepare for their guests.
Over the coming years I’m sure my partner and I will figure out some weird balance between a roast dinner and sarmale, meaning that this coming Christmas will be an exciting mix of British, Romanian and Dutch influences as we’ll most likely be spending our Christmas together in our own home for the first time in Holland. If not, we’ll do a Four Christmases and bugger off for it! Watch this space!